Florida State Seminoles: Vad Lee

ACC's lunchtime links

January, 6, 2014
Jan 6
12:00
PM ET
Well, here we are. I’m thinking Florida State 35, Auburn 24. Who ya got?

ACC Power Rankings: Week 6

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
9:00
AM ET
There were a few tweaks to the lineup this week. And congrats to Wake Forest, you got a promotion:

1. Clemson (5-0, 3-0 ACC; LW: No. 1): The Tigers had no trouble playing in the Dome at Syracuse, as quarterback Tajh Boyd had another Heisman-worthy performance, throwing for 455 yards and five touchdowns in just three quarters of a 49-14 win at Syracuse. Clemson faces a relentless Boston College team at home this week before the Oct. 19 showdown against Florida State.

2. Florida State (5-0, 3-0; LW: No. 2): The Seminoles’ defense was called into question this past week and it answered with a resounding 63-0 shutout of the Terps. It was a dominating performance in all facets of the game, and just what the Noles needed heading into their bye week as they begin preparing for Clemson.

3. Miami (5-0, 1-0; LW: No. 3): The Canes continue to find a way to win, and have established themselves as the team to beat in the Coastal Division. Miami’s 45-30 win over Georgia Tech sets the stage for a season-defining game against Virginia Tech on Nov. 9, but a Thursday night game against the struggling Tar Heels looms first. The Canes are on a bye this week.

4. Virginia Tech (5-1, 2-0; LW: No. 5): The Hokies have now had two straight games in which quarterback Logan Thomas looked much-improved from a season ago, and it has made a difference. Virginia Tech's 27-17 win over North Carolina put the program back in the top 25 as it prepares to host Pitt his weekend.

5. Pitt (3-1, 2-1; LW: No. 6): The Panthers are coming off a bye week, but they’ve won three straight, including back-to-back conference games against Duke and Virginia. This will be their first road trip against a top-25 opponent, and while they’ve won the past four games in the series against Virginia Tech, they’re the ones with something to prove in Blacksburg.

6. Maryland (4-1, 0-1; LW: No. 4): The Terps came crashing back to reality with their humbling loss in Tallahassee, and they lost starting quarterback C.J. Brown to a concussion in the process. Things couldn’t have gone much worse for Maryland, but the schedule is conducive to a rebound if Maryland doesn’t let the Noles beat them twice. The Terps will face Virginia at home this weekend.

7. Georgia Tech (3-2, 2-2; LW: No. 7): The Yellow Jackets started the season strong, but back-to-back Coastal Division losses to Virginia Tech and Miami have them on the outside looking in at the Coastal Division race. It’s not going to get any easier with a road trip to BYU this week, and starting quarterback Vad Lee has been inconsistent and turnover-prone.

8. NC State (3-2, 0-2; LW: No. 8): The Pack just can’t seem to shake the curse of Winston-Salem, as NC State lost to Wake Forest for the sixth straight time on the road. It has been 12 years since NC State won at Wake Forest, and two turnovers contributed to it this season. The Pack returns home to host Syracuse this weekend.

9. Boston College (3-2, 1-1; LW: No. 9): Running back Andre Williams ran for 263 yards and five touchdowns in a 48-27 win over Army. The Eagles just don’t quit, and their ability to continuously run the ball through Williams has been their identity. They’re going to need more than that, though, to pull off the upset of No. 3-ranked Clemson this weekend in Death Valley.

10. Duke (3-2, 0-2; LW: No. 11): The Blue Devils had a bye this week and are trying to string together back-to-back wins with another against Navy on Saturday. Having played Georgia Tech about a month ago should help the defense, considering they run similar option offenses.

11. Wake Forest (3-3, 1-2; LW: No. 14): The Deacs finally got their offense going in a 28-13 win over NC State, thanks to quarterback Tanner Price and standout receiver Michael Campanaro. A little home-field advantage over the Pack never hurts, either. It was a big win that helped keep the Deacs’ bowl hopes alive. They’ve got a bye week to continue to get better before hosting Maryland.

12. Syracuse (2-3, 0-1; LW: No. 10): The Orange had no answer for Tajh Boyd & Co., and they missed out on their own opportunities with mistakes like dropped passes, four turnovers and an inability to convert on third down. It wasn’t the introduction to the ACC Syracuse was hoping for, but the Orange has a chance to rebound this weekend at NC State.

13. North Carolina (1-4, 0-2; LW: No. 13): The Tar Heels have fallen far and fast, but we’d still pick ‘em to beat the Hoos right now, in spite of the fact they have the worst record in the ACC. The difference against the Hokies was three turnovers, and while backup quarterback Marquise Williams played a respectable game in place of injured starter Bryn Renner, it was his final pick in the fourth quarter that sealed it for Virginia Tech.

14. Virginia (2-3, 0-1; LW: No. 12): Virginia’s defense had been a highlight, until it allowed Ball State 506 yards. It lost 48-27 on Saturday to a MAC team -- at home. Virginia coach Mike London insisted this offseason that he’s not concerned about his job security, but it’s hard not to wonder if that sentiment has since changed.

ACC's lunchtime links

September, 27, 2013
9/27/13
12:00
PM ET
Been saying it since the summer: Virginia Tech is a contender.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 5

September, 26, 2013
9/26/13
10:15
AM ET
The Week 5 slate has a handful of conference showdowns on tap, but the weekend figures to have its share of mismatches, too. Here are a few storylines to watch as the ACC closes out the season's first month:

[+] EnlargeVad Lee
Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee and the Yellow Jackets face a tough Virginia Tech defense on Thursday.
Vad Lee's big test: It's been a sterling start for the Georgia Tech QB, but the test gets much tougher this week. Lee has thrown seven touchdowns and rushed for three more through three games, and Georgia Tech's offense looks primed for a big season. But Virginia Tech's defense ranks among the nation's best thus far. The Hokies lead the ACC in rushing defense (96.5 yards per game) and have allowed just two passing plays of 25 yards or more through four weeks -- the two areas the Yellow Jackets have thrived. Georgia Tech took a big step toward establishing itself as a contender last week, but if Lee can find a way to break Virginia Tech's defensive stranglehold this week, the Yellow Jackets just might be the new favorite in the Coastal Division.

As Logan Thomas goes ...: The Hokies' offense has been brutal through four games, with Thomas shouldering the bulk of the criticism -- for good reason. He's completing fewer than 50 percent of his passes with just four TDs to go with six interceptions. But when Thomas is sharp, there's hope. On Tech's three scoring drives vs. Marshall last week, he was 10-of-13 for 106 yards. The rest of the game, he was just 8-of-10 for 75 yards. One key may be running Thomas more often. He had 23 rushing attempts against Marshall -- nearly double his total from the first three games combined.

Supporting the cause: As big as Georgia Tech's win over North Carolina last week was in the standings, it was the message Lee and others wore on wristbands designed to draw attention toward a push to reform NCAA regulations on player compensation and other issues. Coach Paul Johnson said this week that there should have been a team vote before any players took such a public stand, so it will be interesting to see if Tech's protesters take a step back or if more players -- both on the Yellow Jackets and around the nation -- step up to make a stand.

North Carolina's struggles: The Tar Heels figured to be at the top of the ACC's second tier this season, but they've hardly looked the part so far. UNC never really challenged South Carolina in a marquee nonconference opener, and the Heels blew a lead against Georgia Tech last week that puts them in an early hole in the division. Bryn Renner and the offense haven't been nearly as potent as the talent on the roster suggests, and the defense has struggled to stop the run all year. North Carolina tries to rebound against East Carolina this week, but the Pirates took Virginia Tech to the brink just two weeks ago and won't be a pushover.

More highlights from Crowder: In last week's loss, junior Jamison Crowder ran for a touchdown, caught a touchdown and returned a punt for a score -- the first time that feat had been accomplished at Duke since 1999. The Blue Devils' defense appears to be in complete disarray, but Crowder has injected enough life into the offense and special teams that Duke has at least remained competitive -- including last week's ferocious comeback attempt against Pitt. For the year, Crowder ranks among the ACC leaders in receptions (30), receiving yards (381), touchdowns (4) and all-purpose yards (668).

Keeping the faith at NC State: The Wolfpack nearly pulled the upset last week against Clemson, but concerns remain at quarterback, where Pete Thomas has yet to throw a TD pass this year. Still, NC State has kept itself afloat with a 2-1 start, and Brandon Mitchell could be back in a few weeks. The Wolfpack don't figure to be tested much against Central Michigan, and with a manageable schedule leading up to an Oct. 26 showdown against Florida State, Thomas simply needs to steady the ship and avoid catastrophe to keep NC State in the mix in the ACC.

Battle of the ground games: In the past 35 games, just four players have managed to exceed 100 yards on the ground against Florida State's defense. One of them is Boston College's Andre Williams, who is off to a strong start in 2013. He'll be the key to any potential BC upset, but the Seminoles have plenty of weapons in their backfield, too. Devonta Freeman has run for more than 100 yards in each of the past two games and ranks fourth in the nation in yards per carry. Offensive newcomer Karlos Williams has racked up 193 yards and three scores on just 17 carries so far. Overall, FSU ranks third in the country averaging 7.2 yards per rush so far this season.

Clemson building momentum: The general consensus after last week's near miss against NC State is that Clemson got lucky to escape with a win. A close call on what appeared to be a long touchdown for the Wolfpack was followed by a key turnover, swinging the momentum in a 26-14 Tigers win, but Tajh Boyd wasn't at his best and Clemson showed some vulnerability. The task against struggling Wake Forest this week will be to regain that air of invincibility, getting Boyd's Heisman campaign back on track and establishing that the Tigers are still the team to beat in the ACC.

Stephen Morris' health: The Miami quarterback left last week's blowout win over Savannah State early with a bone bruise in his right ankle, but he insists the injury isn't serious. He said he expects to be in the lineup when Miami takes on winless South Florida this week, and it could be a good chance for him to jump-start his season. While the Hurricanes are off to a 3-0 start, Morris is completing just 53 percent of his throws and has just four touchdowns to go with two INTs. USF's D hasn't been tested much through the air so far, but the unit figures to provide a bigger challenge than woeful Savannah State.

Pitt's O vs. Virginia's D: Aside from the blowout loss to Oregon -- a fate shared by many of the Ducks' opponents in recent years -- the Virginia defense has been solid, led by playmakers such as Eli Harold and Anthony Harris. But Virginia figures to be tested this week with an offense that might have playmakers to rival even Oregon's gaudy numbers. Pitt QB Tom Savage threw six touchdowns against Duke last week, while Devin Street, Tyler Boyd and James Conner all rank among the ACC's offensive leaders so far this season.

ACC Week 4: Did you know?

September, 20, 2013
9/20/13
10:00
AM ET
Four weeks into the new season, and a few intra-conference matchups are beginning to separate the contenders and pretenders. Here are a handful of tidbits to shed some light on this weekend's games. (Hat tip, as always, to ESPN Stats and Information and ACC sports information departments.)

DUKE: Wide receiver Jamison Crowder has at least six catches in five consecutive games and 13 of his last 16. He has averaged 7.7 receptions per game so far in 2013, tops in the ACC. He also leads the ACC in punt-return yards (149) and is second in all-purpose yards (389).

FLORIDA STATE: In a 62-7 win over Nevada last week, eight different Seminoles scored touchdowns. That's one shy of the program record of nine, set in a 66-17 win over Memphis State in 1979. It's just the fourth time in program history that eight different offensive players scored a touchdown, however. The last time that happened was a 72-13 win over Wake Forest in 1995.

GEORGIA TECH: Vad Lee accounted for five total touchdowns in last week's win over Duke, including four through the air. He became the first Georgia Tech QB to throw for at least four touchdowns since 2006. This week, he takes on North Carolina. In last year's game, Lee led the Yellow Jackets to a 68-50 win -- the highest-scoring game in ACC history -- by throwing for a season-high 169 yards.

MARYLAND: The Terps are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since 2001, when they won their first seven games of the year. That season, Maryland finished 10-2, won the ACC and played in the Orange Bowl. The biggest difference for Maryland so far has been the offense, which has eclipsed 500 total yards in each of its first three games. Only two other teams in the country have done that (Oregon, California).

MIAMI: Sophomore wide receiver Herb Waters has just 18 touches in 14 career games (15 receptions, three rushes) yet he's now found the end zone in four consecutive contests, dating back to last season.

NORTH CAROLINA: With two touchdown passes Saturday against Georgia Tech, UNC quarterback Bryn Renner would tie T.J. Yates for second on the school's all-time list with 58. The record belongs to Darian Durant, who finished his career with 68.

PITTSBURGH: The Panthers have utilized 12 true freshmen and seven redshirt freshmen already in 2013. Freshmen accounted for 37 of Pitt's 49 points in last week's win over New Mexico, and they lead the team in receiving (Tyler Boyd), rushing (James Conner) and scoring (Chris Blewitt).

SYRACUSE: A win over Tulane on Saturday would be the 700th in Syracuse program history. Only 14 other programs in college football have won at least 700 games. Virginia Tech is also looking for its 700th win this week, while Georgia Tech could become the third ACC team to reach that milestone this season with four more victories.

VIRGINIA: The Cavaliers finished 2012 ranked 114th nationally in turnover margin at a woeful minus-14, and the Virginia D mustered just four interceptions. New DC Jon Tenuta hopes to turn around those numbers in 2013, but he's off to a rough start. Virginia's minus-5 turnover margin is 121st nationally, and it has just one takeaway so far.

VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies' defense has been exceptional so far this season, ranking second in the nation in total defense (190.7 yards per game) and yards allowed per play (3.36). Virginia Tech has allowed just three touchdowns in three games, and 30 of its opponents' 41 drives have ended in a punt, turnover or safety.

WAKE FOREST: Senior receiver Michael Campanaro caught 16 passes for 177 yards in a losing effort against Louisiana-Monroe last week. Those numbers are impressive, but it's not the first time Campanaro has hauled in that many passes. Against Boston College last year, Campanaro caught 16 balls for 123 yards and three touchdowns. He's the only receiver in ACC history with multiple 16-catch games. It's the fifth time in his career he's recorded double-digit receptions.

What to watch in the ACC: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
10:15
AM ET
Here are a few things to keep an eye on in the ACC during Week 4.

[+] EnlargeBryan Underwood
Streeter Lecka/Getty ImagesNC State seems to have a knack for celebrating big upsets, including last year's win over then-No. 3 FSU.
1. Upset city? Raleigh, N.C., has been the site of a huge national upset in each of the past two years. NC State topped then-No. 7 Clemson 37-13 in 2011, then shocked No. 3 Florida State 17-16 last year. The Wolfpack will have the nation's eyes watching them tonight when they host the No. 3 Tigers.

2. A couple of big conference games. Yes, this week's college football schedule is quite underwhelming, but the ACC has a rather nice lineup. The conference has three league games and every team but Boston College is playing this week, plus it has an intriguing nonconference matchup between West Virginia and Maryland.

3. Lee tries to keep it going through the air. Georgia Tech started its four-game division stretch on a strong note at Duke, and it will try to gain some early separation in the race Saturday against North Carolina. Vad Lee threw four touchdown passes against the Blue Devils, and while matching that for a second straight week may be asking a lot, offensive fireworks figure to be the norm again in a rematch of a game the Yellow Jackets won last year by a 68-50 score.

4. Journell's rebound. Cody Journell missed two field goals and an extra point in Virginia Tech's five-point win at East Carolina. Credit the senior for owning his bad day afterward, vowing to never let it happen again. He had entered the contest 36-of-46 for his career, and he will look to get back on track Saturday against Marshall.

5. Option galore. Jim Grobe has said the option is here to stay at Wake Forest. Viewers will see plenty of it in Saturday's game either way, as the Demon Deacons travel to Army, looking to get back to .500 after two straight losses. The Black Knights are currently seventh in the nation in rushing, at 314 yards per game.

6. Hunt's chance to shine. Terrel Hunt took advantage of the extra snaps last week from Syracuse, completing 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three scores. He'll get his first career start this week against Tulane, looking to give the Orange a second straight win and get them back to .500 before they open their inaugural ACC slate a week later against Clemson.

7. FCS dark horses. Virginia hosts VMI, FSU hosts Bethune-Cookman and Miami hosts Savannah State. All three look like layups on the surface, but the FCS cannot be looked at as a complete afterthought given some of its early-season successes against the big boys of FBS. Let's not forget NC State's close call two weeks ago with Richmond, either.

8. Maryland CBs. Geno Smith isn't walking through that door for West Virginia, but the Terps will still have their work cut out for them against Ford Childress and the Mountaineers, as they are down starting corners Jeremiah Johnson and Dexter McDougle as they look to get to 4-0. Isaac Goins and Will Likely will get the starts.

9. Connette looks for first win. Brandon Connette's first start for Duke was so-so, as he went 15-for-28 for 122 yards as the Blue Devils struggled to move the ball against Georgia Tech. He returns home to face a Pitt team with an experienced secondary that is still looking to live up to big expectations after two games.

10. Pitt backfield looks to keep it up. The Panthers are going for ACC win No. 1, and they seem to finally have some semblance of a ground game after early-season questions. Converted end James Conner ran for 119 yards and two touchdowns against New Mexico, and Isaac Bennett tallied 101 yards and two scores himself. Duke gave up 344 yards on the ground last week against Georgia Tech, though the Yellow Jackets' triple-option offense is nothing like Pitt's pro-style attack.

ACC predictions: Week 4

September, 19, 2013
9/19/13
9:00
AM ET
We have a little separation in the ACC picks after Andrea went 7-1 last week and Heather went 6-2, missing on her upset special selection. Andrea is now 27-4 through three weeks, while Heather is 26-5. Let's see what Week 4 has in store.

Thursday

No. 3 Clemson (2-0) at NC State (2-0), 7:30 p.m., ESPN. #CLEMvsNCST. The Wolfpack have beaten Top 10 teams in consecutive seasons. That includes Clemson in 2011. But this NC State team has a new coach and a vastly different look on both offense and defense and is still adjusting, as a close call against Richmond showed a few weeks ago. Tajh Boyd, meanwhile, threw for 426 yards and five touchdown passes last year against a much more experienced Wolfpack secondary. To have a shot at another upset, NC State has got to pressure Boyd and get a near perfect game from quarterback Pete Thomas. The odds say the Clemson offense will be too much to handle again.

AA picks: Clemson 38, NC State 20

HD picks: Clemson 42, NC State 21

Saturday

North Carolina (1-1) at Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0), noon, ESPN. #UNCvsGT. The Tar Heels got an extra week to prepare for Georgia Tech, but that did little good last year, when they gave up 68 points in a high-scoring loss. The defense, without its best players from 2012, has not looked a whole lot better in two games so far this year. Georgia Tech, meanwhile, has an added dimension on offense with the way Vad Lee has been able to pass the ball. Given those questions on defense, Georgia Tech gets the edge in this game.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 35, North Carolina 24

HD picks: Georgia Tech 38, North Carolina 28

Marshall (2-1) at Virginia Tech (2-1), noon, ESPNU. #MRSHvsVT. The Hokies are the type of team that will continue to win with a solid defense and an offense that does enough to get the job done. The offense showed signs of improvement last week against East Carolina, while the defense turned in another outstanding performance and shut down quarterback Shane Carden. Expect much of the same this week against another good quarterback in Rakeem Cato.

AA picks: Virginia Tech 23, Marshall 7

HD picks: Virginia Tech 17, Marshall 7

Wake Forest (1-2) at Army (1-2), noon, CBS Sports Network. This game is a toss-up, based mostly on the way Wake Forest has struggled on offense the last two games. What has been alarming has not only been an inability to run the football, but no sense of urgency on the sideline. The Deacs have to win this game with a tough stretch looming. In their matchup last year, Michael Campanaro had 184 yards of total offense and two rushers went over 100 yards on the ground. They will find enough offense to squeak by, even though the last two games point to continue struggles.

AA picks: Wake Forest 28, Army 27

HD picks: Wake Forest 21, Army 20

Pitt (1-1, 0-1) at Duke (2-1, 0-1), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PITTvsDUKE. The Panthers hit the road for the first time this season after a big win over New Mexico that featured some freshmen stars, including receiver Tyler Boyd. Duke, meanwhile, hopes to rebound after a tough loss to Georgia Tech. Coach David Cutcliffe expects Brandon Connette to play better in his second start but Pitt presents a tough challenge, particularly up front. Pitt needs to work on holding onto the ball if it is going to win -- six turnovers in two games is unacceptable.

AA picks: Pitt 27, Duke 20

HD picks: Pitt 28, Duke 24

Tulane (2-1) at Syracuse (1-2), 12:30 p.m., ESPN3. #TULNvsCUSE. The Orange finally picked up their first win of the season but it came against FCS Wagner. So we will see how many improvements they have made this week against Tulane, a much improved team already this season. Terrel Hunt gets the start at quarterback, hoping to build off a strong performance last week. Tulane is led by quarterback Nick Montana, the son of NFL Hall of Famer Joe Montana. Expect Hunt to have another good game.

AA picks: Syracuse 35, Tulane 17

HD picks: Syracuse 35, Tulane 10

West Virginia (2-1) vs. Maryland (3-0), 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #WVUvsMD. We had Maryland on upset watch this week, but feel confident the Terps will be able to beat the Mountaineers for the first time since the 2003 Gator Bowl. West Virginia has not developed the type of rhythm it wants on offense yet this season in two games against FBS competition. Ford Childress did show good signs last week against Georgia State, but this will be his first true test of the year. Maryland, meanwhile, has been much more effective on offense than West Virginia. This year, the C.J. Brown-Stefon Diggs combination will be too tough to stop.

AA picks: Maryland 33, West Virginia 27

HD picks: Maryland 27, West Virginia 21

VMI (1-2) at Virginia (1-1), 3:30 p.m., ESPN3. #VMIvsUVA. The Hoos return to the field after a bye, hoping to improve their ground game. A key there will be getting quarterback David Watford more involved because of his ability to make plays in the open field. Coach Mike London also wants to get the downfield passing game working, too, as his receivers need to get more involved in the offense.

AA picks: Virginia 45, VMI 3

HD picks: Virginia 28, VMI 7

Bethune-Cookman (3-0) at No. 8 Florida State (2-0), 6 p.m., ESPN3. #BCUvsFSU. Coach Jimbo Fisher has played up what Bethune-Cookman has done so far this year -- an FCS ranking and win over FIU. But make no mistake, the Seminoles are not going to be tested much in this game.

AA picks: Florida State 55, Bethune-Cookman 3

HD picks: Florida State 62, Bethune-Cookman 0

Savannah State (1-2) at No. 16 Miami (2-0), 7 p.m., ESPN3. #SAVvsMIA. FCS punching bag Savannah State arrives in Miami to collect another paycheck, having given up 77 points to Georgia State and 66 to Troy earlier this season. The only thing left to wonder is how badly the Canes will beat this squad.

AA picks: Miami 60, Savannah State 3

HD picks: Miami 52, Savannah State 0

ACC weekend rewind: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
11:00
AM ET
Week 3 in the ACC didn't have the same high-stakes fireworks as the first two, but there were still a few stories of note.

[+] EnlargeVad Lee
Mark Dolejs/USA TODAY SportsGeorgia Tech's Vad Lee threw for four touchdown passes and ran for another score against Duke.
The good: Any worries Georgia Tech fans might have had about new starting quarterback Vad Lee should have been alleviated when the Durham, N.C., native torched his hometown team, throwing four touchdown passes and running for a fifth score in a 38-14 victory over Duke. Lee threw for 126 yards, ran for 76 more and directed the Yellow Jackets' option offense with precision. The four TD passes represented a single-game high in the Paul Johnson era at Georgia Tech, and Lee's six passing scores already have him halfway to last year's total of 12.

The bad: Riding the high of a two-game winning streak to start the season, Boston College was thinking upset when it headed west to take on a struggling USC team. The Eagles might be improved under new coach Steve Addazio, but they're not quite ready to play with the big boys. The Trojans' languishing offense found plenty of room to work in a 35-7 win, and BC's Chase Rettig completed just 11 of 24 passes in a homecoming game for the Southern California native.

The ugly: Head coach Jim Grobe was optimistic before the season. But three games in, things look awfully bad for Wake Forest. The Deacons lost their second game in a row -- 21-19 to Louisiana-Monroe after a failed two-point conversion late in the fourth quarter -- mustering just 15 yards on the ground in the game. Through three games, Wake Forest ranks 120th nationally at just 2.4 yards per rush.

The playmaker: Pittsburgh might not be quite ready to compete with the ACC's royalty, but the Panthers clearly have some skill on offense, led by freshman phenom Tyler Boyd. After racking up 151 all-purpose yards in Week 1 against Florida State, Boyd demolished New Mexico with a 33-yard TD run and a 34-yard TD reception. Overall, Boyd has averaged 20.4 yards every time he's touched the ball.

The rebound: Jameis Winston admitted he might have been a bit too excited for his home debut at Florida State and it showed. He opened the game 2-of-5 passing and threw his first career interception early in the second quarter. But Winston wasn't rattled by the struggles. He followed the pick by completing his final 13 passes and leading six consecutive touchdown drives in the Seminoles' blowout win over Nevada.

The rebound, part II: After two dismal weeks offensively, Syracuse finally got things going behind quarterback Terrel Hunt. Drew Allen struggled in Syracuse's first two games -- both losses -- and Scott Shafer announced he'd open up the competition. Hunt made a quick impression, completing 15 of 18 passes for 265 yards and three TDs in a 54-0 win over Wagner. What remains to be seen is whether Hunt can keep up the big numbers against better competition.

The homecoming: Randy Edsall helped usher Connecticut into the FBS as head coach of the Huskies, but he didn't do his former team many favors when he led Maryland back to his old stomping grounds. The Terps racked up 501 yards of offense and only three turnovers kept UConn in the game. Quarterback C.J. Brown gained more than 100 yards rushing for the second time in three games in the 32-21 Maryland victory.

The paradox: Virginia Tech's third game was a lot like its first. The good news was that the Hokies' defense looks legit. After an opening-drive TD, East Carolina managed just 129 yards the rest of the game and Virginia Tech forced three turnovers in a 15-10 victory. On the flip side, Logan Thomas and the offense continues to struggle. Tech had just 311 yards of its own, was 10-of-22 on third and fourth downs and averaged just 1.6 yards per rush. Meanwhile, kicker Cody Journell missed two field goals and a PAT.

The wake-up call: Duke might still get to six victories and bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season, but it seemed clear after Saturday's loss to Georgia Tech that the Blue Devils aren't quite ready to compete for a division title. Lee torched the Duke defense and quarterback Brandon Connette averaged just 4.4 yards per attempt in his first start since replacing the injured Anthony Boone.

The quote: "When I got out there, it was nothing but green grass." -- Florida State's Karlos Williams on the toss sweep that went for a 65-yard touchdown on his first career carry. He moved from safety to tailback last week.

ACC Power Rankings: Week 3

September, 16, 2013
9/16/13
9:00
AM ET
No movement at the top this week, just some reshuffling in the middle and at the bottom.

1. Clemson (2-0, 0-0, ACC last week: 1). The Tigers were off but remain the highest ranked ACC team in the national polls at No. 3. The first conference game of the year awaits Thursday at NC State. Clemson lost the last time it played in Raleigh.

2. Florida State (2-0, 1-0 ACC, last week: 2). The Seminoles crushed Nevada this past weekend, rolling up 62 points on the Wolf Pack in another easy victory. They won't get much of a challenge this weekend, either, against FCS Bethune-Cookman.

3. Miami (2-0, 0-0 ACC, last week: 3). The Hurricanes enjoyed a bye week after their big win over Florida. We won't know much more about this team after this weekend, either, because Miami plays FCS Savannah State. Noles fans can fill you in on what to expect.

4. Georgia Tech (2-0, 1-0 ACC, last week: 4). Game 1 of a tough four-game Coastal stretch is in the books, and the Jackets looked good in beating up on Duke -- their 10th straight win in the series. Vad Lee threw four touchdown passes, leaving us all wondering whether this is the year Georgia Tech can complement its rushing game with an above-average passing game.

5. North Carolina (1-1, 0-0 ACC, last week: 5). The Tar Heels got an extra week to prepare for the Georgia Tech offense. Now we'll see whether the added time was put to good use. Nobody has quite forgotten the defensive debacle that unfolded for both teams in their matchup last year.

6. Virginia Tech (2-1, 0-0 ACC, last week: 6). The Hokies squeaked out a victory over East Carolina, with yet another outstanding defensive effort. If they get performances like that every week, they will be a serious threat in the Coastal. Top D in the league and it's not even close.

7. Maryland (3-0, 0-0 ACC, last week: 8). We moved the Terps ahead of Virginia this week thanks to their 3-0 start. It didn't look pretty at times against UConn, but they found a way to win. No, they haven't beaten anybody with a winning record yet, but they are unbeaten and that counts in these rankings, too.

8. Virginia (1-1, 0-0 ACC, last week: 7). The Hoos were off this past week after a blowout loss to Oregon and get VMI this Saturday. We won't know much more about this team until it plays at Pitt on Sept. 28.

9. NC State (2-0, 0-0 ACC, last week: 10). The Wolfpack also were off this past weekend as they prepare to host Clemson. They are going to need a much better performance out of Pete Thomas to have any shot at another upset in the series.

10. Pitt (1-1, 0-1 ACC, last week: 12). The Panthers completely dominated New Mexico and got standout performances from several freshmen, including Tyler Boyd and James Conner. They travel to Duke this weekend with a chance to even up their ACC record.

11. Duke (2-1, 0-1 ACC, last week: 9). The Blue Devils could not muster enough offensively with backup quarterback Brandon Connette running the offense in a loss to Georgia Tech. There is no time to look back, because another important Coastal Division game against Pitt looms.

12. Boston College (2-1, 1-0 ACC, last week: 11). Heather thought the Eagles had a chance to pull the upset, but Lane Kiffin had everybody fooled. BC was unable to keep up with supremely talented USC and got beat soundly. The Eagles are off this week before facing another tough opponent -- Florida State on Sept. 28.

13. Syracuse (1-2, 0-0 ACC, last week: 14). The Orange are finally in the win column thanks to a blowout win over Wagner. Terrel Hunt looks like he is ready to run this offense. Syracuse gets a chance to even up its record Saturday against Tulane before opening conference play against Clemson on Oct. 5.

14. Wake Forest (1-2, 0-1 ACC, last week: 13). The Deacs are officially the biggest disappointment in the ACC after losing to ULM at home. What we can't figure out is how a team so laden with seniors, who vowed not to repeat the missteps from a year ago, is perhaps even worse than that 2012 group.

ACC helmet stickers: Week 3

September, 15, 2013
9/15/13
9:00
AM ET
Here are your top five performers for Week 3 in the ACC:

Georgia Tech quarterback Vad Lee: Not only did he throw the ball, he beat Duke with his arm. Lee threw four touchdown passes -- the most in a game in the Paul Johnson era, and the most by a Jackets quarterback since Reggie Ball threw four against NC State in 2006. He also ran for another touchdown in the 38-14 win over Duke, was 8-of-16 for 125 yards and added 76 yards rushing. Georgia Tech rolled up 344 yards rushing and 469 total yards.

Virginia Tech CB Brandon Facyson: The true freshman has grown quickly into a star, as he picked off a pair of passes and made two tackles in the Hokies’ 15-10 win at East Carolina. The Hokies’ D was again the highlight, as Virginia Tech held ECU to just 158 yards passing and 204 yards of total offense. Facyson already has three interceptions this year, matching the most interceptions in a season by a Tech freshman since DeAngelo Hall had three interceptions in 12 games as a freshman in 2001. Coach Frank Beamer told reporters after the game that Facyson is “a baller.”

Pitt freshmen: The future is now at Pitt, where three freshmen made headlines in the Panthers’ 49-27 win over New Mexico on Saturday. Freshman James Conner had 119 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries. Freshman Tyler Boyd continued to impress with six catches for 134 yards, including with a 51-yarder early in the game and a 34-yard touchdown reception as time ran out in the first half. He also had two carries for 39 yards with a 33-yard touchdown run. Freshman tight end Scott Orndoff joined the party with a 4-yard touchdown.

Florida State’s running backs: Sure, it was another outstanding day for quarterback Jameis Winston in the 62-7 romp over Nevada, but let’s spread the love a little. Devonta Freeman ran nine times for 109 yards and a touchdown. James Wilder Jr. added 45 yards and a score. And the highlight? Former safety Karlos Williams, who moved to offense after the season opener against Pitt, ran eight times for 110 yards and a score. His 65-yard run early in the third quarter gave the Noles a comfortable 31-7 lead. FSU finished with 377 rushing yards -- just their third 300-plus yard rushing day since 2007.

Maryland cornerback Dexter McDougle: McDougle finished with a personal-best two interceptions, including one he returned 49 yards for a touchdown to essentially seal the Terps' 32-21 win over UConn in Randy Edsall's homecoming. It was Maryland's first pick-six since November 2011. McDougle also led the team with seven solo tackles. Maryland now has six total interceptions on the season, two more than all of 2012. But there was some bad news, as McDougle left the game in the fourth quarter with an apparent shoulder injury.
Clemson quarterback Tajh Boyd has not disappointed. Neither has Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston -- at least for one game, anyway.

Even Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown has impressed in his return from a major knee injury.

The rest of the quarterbacks in the ACC? Well, their performances have not exactly risen to elite levels. Not yet, anyway.

[+] EnlargeStephen Morris
AP Photo/J Pat CarterStephen Morris is completing only 52 percent of his passes thus far.
You figured there could be some early struggles at the position, with seven teams featuring new starters. Two of those teams -- Duke and NC State -- are already playing backups after their starters got hurt. Still, several quarterbacks expected to be among the best in the league have struggled so far, too.

The latest QBR stats show the ACC has more quarterbacks underperforming than the other power conferences.

Six ACC quarterbacks rank in the bottom 38 in QBR, which measures the way a signal caller plays by taking into account his stats combined with game situations. That ranks last among the Big 12 (two), Pac-12 (two), Big Ten (three) and SEC (two). In addition, six ACC quarterbacks have thrown more interceptions than touchdowns so far this season.

Part of the reason for some of the early struggles can be attributed to the schedule. Three players went against top-10 defenses -- Miami quarterback Stephen Morris against Florida; Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas against Alabama; and Syracuse quarterback Drew Allen against Penn State. In addition, Virginia quarterback David Watford faced BYU and Oregon, while Pitt quarterback Tom Savage went against Florida State, a top-10 defense a year ago.

Each quarterback ranks in the bottom 38 in QBR. Morris (No. 100) and Thomas (No. 132) stand out the most in that group. Morris in particular has not been as crisp as he was when he ended the last four games of 2012 with 11 touchdown passes, zero interceptions and 1,131 passing yards.

Going into the year, Morris drew raves as a potential first-round pick thanks to his arm strength and football savvy. Many pegged him as the second-best quarterback in the league behind Boyd. So far in two games, Morris is completing only 52 percent -- down from the 58 percent he posted in 2012. He also has three touchdown passes to two interceptions and has thrown for a total of 322 yards.

Miami coach Al Golden says Morris' performance has been a function of both games the Hurricanes have played. In the opener against FAU, their ground game had more than 300 yards. Last week in a win over Florida, the entire Miami offense struggled against one of the best defenses it will face this year. Still, there were several miscommunications in the pass game, in particular between Morris and Phillip Dorsett.

"There's a lot of things we have to fix, but Stephen's not on a different page or anything like that," Golden said. "We're anxious to get in here this week and work. I know he is. We're just going to get better and move forward."

Thomas' struggles have continued, despite a new coordinator and new offensive scheme. He has one touchdown pass to three interceptions and is not even ranked among the top 10 players in passing efficiency in the latest ACC statistics. His completion percentage is down around 39 percent. Not all the problems fall on Thomas' shoulders. His receivers have not helped him out, and the run game remains inconsistent.

But given his talent and starting experience, Thomas should not rank last among all ACC quarterbacks in QBR. Many expected improvement this year after a down 2012. The tangible results have not been there for him just yet.

One other returning veteran has not been completely on point, either. North Carolina quarterback Bryn Renner, also rated right behind Boyd among returning starters, ranks No. 66 in QBR and is at No. 7 in passing efficiency in the ACC. He has not been terrible; but he has not been outstanding, either.

"Bryn is playing well," coach Larry Fedora said. "The pieces of the puzzle around Bryn are a little different this year. We still have to come together as an offense. I don't think we're hitting on all cylinders yet. We have to become more effective running the football to take some of that pressure off Bryn so he can be who he can be."

Among the first-year starters, Allen has probably struggled more than anyone. He has one touchdown pass to six interceptions -- including four last week in a loss to Northwestern. Coach Scott Shafer says he will play Allen and backup Terrel Hunt against Wagner on Saturday.

"It's been frustrating going through growing pains but at the same time I think they continue to attack practice every day and continue to get better and we've just got to eliminate the major mistakes and I think we can have one or maybe two great players," Syracuse quarterbacks coach Tim Lester said.

Boyd and Winston have lived up to the early hype. Brown has been terrific, ranking No. 3 in the nation in QBR to lead all ACC quarterbacks.

But there's no doubt this is a position that must see improvement across the league as the year goes on.
Week 1 was filled with introductions in the ACC, as several fan bases got acquainted with first-year starting quarterbacks. Vad Lee led Georgia Tech to a 70-0 romp over Elon, Drew Allen was named the starter at Syracuse, NC State’s Brandon Mitchell played well until he injured his foot, and the Anthony Boone era officially began at Duke. None of them, though, made the kind of splash Florida State’s Jameis Winston did in the Noles’ season opener against Pitt.

Winston completed 25-of-27 for 356 yards with four passing touchdowns and one rushing touchdown in the 41-13 win. He set the school’s completion percentage record and record for passing yards by a freshman in his first start.

Jameis Winston
Justin K. Aller/Getty ImagesSeveral ACC schools debuted new QBs, none with more fanfare than Florida State's Jameis Winston.
Even Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher conceded he’d never seen anything like it.

“For a first game, I haven’t seen [a performance] of that caliber,” he said, “there’s no doubt.”

For the most part, ACC coaches were pleased with what they saw from their rookies -- or in Pitt’s case, their veteran. Senior Tom Savage hadn’t taken a snap in over two years before he lined up against the Noles at Heinz Field. He completed 15 of 28 passes for 201 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions.

“He was enjoying playing again,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “When you sit out that long, sometimes you see it with older guys who get their first start. All of those plays are really appreciated. He was a guy who truly enjoyed playing football again. I loved his demeanor throughout the whole game, when something good happened or something bad happened.”

There was bad news in Raleigh, where Mitchell broke his foot after just three series in the first quarter. The Pack will now turn to Pete Thomas heading into Saturday’s game against Richmond. Thomas replaced Mitchell in the 41-14 win over Louisiana Tech and threw for 212 yards on 15 of 27 passing. NC State coach Dave Doeren said the coaches are going to have to be “a little more creative” with their running game because Thomas isn’t as mobile, but that Thomas doesn’t have to be a superhero to win games.

“We need him not to beat us,” Doeren said. “Just distribute the ball to the right people. Don’t try to win the game, just don’t lose it. That’s something quarterbacks can try to make too many plays when they don’t really have to. … Pete can do that. We’re looking forward to seeing him take this opportunity and do something with it.”

Doeren said the staff is trying to redshirt backup quarterback Manny Stocker, and that Stocker’s playing time last year “was premature for his growth as a player.”

“I just think a year going against our starting defense as the scout team quarterback will really benefit him,” Doeren said.

There was a lot of hype and anticipation amongst Syracuse fans about transfer quarterback Drew Allen, but the Orange’s offense looked flat in the 23-17 loss to Penn State. Christian Hackenberg, the Nittany Lions’ freshman quarterback, stole the show, while Allen threw two interceptions and no touchdowns.

“If you just look at the stat sheet, you say, ‘boy, we wish we could’ve done better,’” Syracuse coach Scott Shafer said. “But big picture, I was real pleased with the way Drew played. The things I was most pleased with, he never really was flustered on the sideline. I thought he had good control and command. He kept working towards making the next play go, and we had a few dropped balls in there and a couple of missed routes by the supporting cast, but I liked the way he worked through those situations. I’m looking forward to seeing him getting his second start this weekend against Northwestern.”

More news and notes from around the ACC …

Randy Edsall’s money quote: Maryland coach Randy Edsall was asked on Wednesday’s ACC teleconference how much he concerns himself with the school’s financial struggles and what his role is in trying to raise attendance and sponorships. “That’s somebody else’s job to worry about the financial problems,” he said. “I wasn’t the one that got them into those problems.” Talk about passing the buck.

‘Camp’ starts: Wake Forest standout receiver Michael Campanaro missed last week’s season opener against Presbyterian with a sore hamstring, but coach Jim Grobe said his top playmaker will be ready to go at Boston College on Friday, the first league game for both schools. “I think Camp could’ve played last week,” Grobe said. “He’s been having problems with his hamstring since our third scrimmage. He didn’t have a pulled hamstring, but it tightened up and it was sore, and he didn’t practice much in the week leading up to the opener. We just felt like it would be not in his best interest and ours to try and play him against Presbyterian, but he’s full speed again, and he should be fine against Boston College.”

High praise for Ducks: Virginia coach Mike London knows his defense will have its hands full against No. 2 Oregon -- twofold. “If you get tired enough, you can see double of everything,” London said. “They are as good as advertised.”

VT RB on the mend: Injured Virginia Tech running back J.C. Coleman (sprained ankles) didn’t make the trip to Alabama, but coach Frank Beamer said Coleman is on the mend for Saturday’s game against Western Carolina. “I think today is an important practice for J.C. He’s back, but exactly how far back he is, I think we need to see yet. He did some things very well yesterday, but today we’ll see exactly where he is.”

No seats in Sun Life: Miami coach Al Golden said he’s not sure how many recruits will attend Saturday’s home game against Florida, but that “it’s a who’s who from what I understand.” In order to accommodate the expected crowd, Golden said 2,000 seats have been added to Sun Life Stadium. “There’s no seats left for anybody,” he said. “We’re running out of seats for former players, high school coaches, recruits, all the way down the line. It’s going to be a great atmosphere.”

James Wilder Jr. day-to-day: Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher said Wilder injured his shoulder in Monday night’s win over Pitt, but that it’s not serious. “He’s doing fine,” Fisher said. “He’ll be day-to-day. He’s got a banged up shoulder, but nothing very serious. Give it a little bit of rest, and I think he’ll be fine.”

ACC predictions: Week 1

August, 29, 2013
8/29/13
9:05
AM ET
The most anticipated post of Week 1 has finally arrived: Prediction time! Heather and I both got out our crystal balls and looked into the future. Here is what each of us sees for opening week in the ACC:

Thursday

North Carolina at No. 6 South Carolina, 6 p.m., ESPN. #UNCvsSC. The headliner in this game is Jadeveon Clowney, for obvious reasons. If North Carolina still had its offensive line from a year ago, I would like its chances in this game more. But with two redshirt freshmen starting on the offensive line and a new starting running back, the Tar Heels have major questions at the two strongest positions on the team in 2012. Defensively, North Carolina is thin at linebacker, so that is a concern, along with replacing Sylvester Williams up front. Bryn Renner will be able to keep North Carolina in the game, but South Carolina will ultimately win because it is stronger on the offensive and defensive lines.

AA picks: South Carolina 34, North Carolina 21

HD picks: South Carolina 24, North Carolina 21

Presbyterian at Wake Forest, 6:30 p.m., ESPN3. #PREvsWAKE. Wake Forest coach Jim Grobe goes into the season needing four victories to become the all-time winningest coach in school history. After this game, that number should shrink to three. Presbyterian won only two games last season, so I am not sure how much of a challenge a bad FCS team will present. Still, a few things to keep an eye on: the Wake Forest running game -- both Josh Harris and the offensive line. How much more will Tanner Price be used in running situations? Wake has a big game in Week 2 against BC, so Grobe is going to want to see what he can build on.

AA picks: Wake Forest 50, Presbyterian 3

HD picks: Wake Forest 45, Presbyterian 10

Friday

FAU at Miami, 8 p.m., ESPNU. #FAUvsMIA. The Hurricanes open the season without a resolution from the NCAA. Shocking, right? But that should not be a distraction. The bigger distraction could be the "look-ahead factor," with Miami playing rival Florida the following week. FAU has a long way to go if it wants to compete with Miami. Simply put, this won't be much of a test for the Hurricanes. The talent gap is too wide. Coach Al Golden just has to make sure his team remains focused on FAU.

AA picks: Miami 45, FAU 10

HD picks: Miami 42, FAU 17

Saturday

Elon at Georgia Tech, noon, ESPN3. #ELONvsGT. This is the schools' first meeting in football. It is not much of a matchup, either. Elon only won three games last year, so the Jackets should not have many problems in this game. They do have some injuries at a few spots, but with a bye the following week, Georgia Tech should be much healthier for its Sept. 14 game at Duke. It will be good to see how Vad Lee plays, what type of backs rotation Paul Johnson uses and how Ted Roof's new defense looks.

AA picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 3

HD picks: Georgia Tech 55, Elon 0

Villanova at Boston College, noon, ESPNews. #VILLvsBC. Coach Steve Addazio is pretty familiar with Villanova. When he was head coach at Temple in 2011 and 2012, the Owls opened the season against Villanova and won both games easily. This will be a good early test for the Eagles with Addazio in charge. First priority is to see how much better the offensive line and running game do. Second priority is to see more physicality from both sides of the ball. Both will be important, with the league opener against Wake Forest the following week.

AA picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 13

HD picks: Boston College 35, Villanova 17

FIU at Maryland (12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #FIUvsMD. Maryland has a very favorable nonconference schedule to open the season and kicks things off against an FIU team that took a big step back in 2012. The Panthers have a new head coach and only eight returning starters, to boot. Maryland, meanwhile, has a healthy C.J. Brown ready to open the season and the best player on the field in Stefon Diggs. Three keys to watch for the Terps: 1. How does the retooled offensive line hold up? 2. Will the running game be better? 3. How does the retooled defense with six new starters fare?

AA picks: Maryland 33, FIU 10

HD picks: Maryland 38, FIU 21

Louisiana Tech at NC State, 12:30 p.m., GamePlan/ESPN3. #LATECHvsNCST. The Dave Doeren era begins against one of the better teams from outside the power conferences a year ago. Louisiana Tech has a new coach in Skip Holtz and a first-year starting quarterback, but it also returns 1,000-yard rusher Kenneth Dixon and defensive end IK Enemkpali, a first-team WAC selection a year ago. NC State has not named a starting quarterback yet, and running back Shadrach Thornton is suspended for this one. Plus, the Wolfpack will have new offensive and defensive schemes and return only 11 starters. I expect for it to take some time to work out the kinks. Louisiana Tech upset Virginia a year ago, so this is not a team to overlook. This will be a good first test for Doeren.

AA picks: NC State 35, Louisiana Tech 24

HD picks: NC State 42, Louisiana Tech 7

Syracuse vs. Penn State, 3:30 p.m., ABC/ESPN2. #CUSEvsPSU. Neither team plans on naming a starting quarterback going into this one, so the big unknown is who will be under center when the game kicks off. What is known is that Syracuse should have a powerful running game going into the season with 1,000-yard rusher Jerome Smith returning, along with Prince-Tyson Gulley. There are definite questions for the Orange not only at quarterback, but at receiver, offensive tackle and along the defensive line. But I like what coach Scott Shafer has preached so far. His team is going to be hard-nosed and physical, and I believe it will be able to eke out a very close win.

AA picks: Syracuse 24, Penn State 21

HD picks: Penn State 31, Syracuse 21

BYU at Virginia, 3:30 p.m., ESPNU. #BYUvsUVA. There is no doubt the Cougars go into the game with a stout defense, led by outstanding linebacker Kyle Van Noy. But I am going with the Hoos in this game for a few reasons. First, they are at home and should have an advantage with BYU traveling from the Mountain time zone. Second, I think they will be a much more sound team on offense and defense. David Watford's mobility should help against the Cougars' D. Third, BYU has not been as good on offense in recently. If the Hoos can establish the run the way they did in 2011 and be more aggressive on D, they win. One more note: In his career as a head coach, Mike London has won all five of his openers. This will be his first as UVa coach against an FBS team.

AA picks: Virginia 21, BYU 20

HD picks: BYU 28, Virginia 21

NC Central at Duke, 4 p.m., ESPN3. #NCCUvsDUKE. The Blue Devils should have a relatively easy time against NC Central, the way they did last season. What they want to see is how Anthony Boone plays in his first game as starting quarterback and what types of strides the defense has made since last season. Both are going to be big keys for Duke if it wants to get back to a bowl game.

AA picks: Duke 48, NC Central 13

HD picks: Duke 48, NC Central 10

No. 1 Alabama vs. Virginia Tech, 5:30 p.m., ESPN. #BAMAvsVT. A few months ago, I thought the Hokies might have a fighting chance in this game. But I just don't think they have the personnel to do so now that game week has arrived. Given the uncertainty on the offensive line, at running back and in the secondary, it is going to be tough sledding for Virginia Tech to score more than two touchdowns against one of the best defenses in America. If Virginia Tech finds a way to win, it will be because it was able to establish the run, control the clock and pressure AJ McCarron into mistakes. Not out of the question. But it appears improbable at this point.

AA picks: Alabama 31, Virginia Tech 13

HD picks: Alabama 45, Virginia Tech 20

No. 5 Georgia at No. 8 Clemson, 8 p.m., ABC. #UGAvsCLEM. The game of the year, or at least the game of the week, has finally arrived after months and months of buildup. We finally get to see whether the Tigers can continue the momentum they established in the bowl win over LSU last season. Georgia has a veteran quarterback and the best rushing duo in the country. How Clemson handles Todd Gurley and Keith Marshall is the biggest key for an improving defense. But this is why Clemson wins the game: Tajh Boyd, Sammy Watkins and a veteran offensive line have the upper hand over a defense that only returns three starters, including just one up front.

AA picks: Clemson 35, Georgia 31

HD picks: Clemson 38, Georgia 35

Monday

No. 11 Florida State at Pitt, 8 p.m., ESPN. #FSUvsPITT. A big opening week concludes with a huge game for both teams. Pitt begins its first season in the ACC with a marquee opponent at home, while Florida State begins its quest for another ACC title with a freshman starting at quarterback. Heather put Florida State on preseason upset watch last month, but it's hard for me to see the Panthers pulling the upset for two reasons: 1. They are banged-up at running back and have no depth at the position. 2. Florida State has a big-time advantage on the offensive and defensive lines. Pitt will give Florida State all it can handle, but the talent disparity is too wide for the Panthers to overcome in the opener.

AA picks: Florida State 27, Pitt 17

HD picks: Florida State 31, Pitt 21

ACC QB battles in final rounds

August, 27, 2013
8/27/13
9:00
AM ET
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. -- Jimbo Fisher said the decision was agonizing, but the truth is, the Florida State coach had it easy.

Fisher may have debated the merits of both of his quarterback prospects for months before finally tabbing redshirt freshman Jameis Winston over sophomore Jacob Coker as FSU's starter, but any ambivalence was a result of the Seminoles having two strong options. Fisher couldn't go wrong.

"You’re splitting hairs when you really get down to it," Fisher said. "That’s not coach talk or anything else. That’s the truth. That was a great competition."

If Fisher reveled in the quarterback drama, however, he wasn't alone. More than half the ACC's coaches are getting used to life with a first-year starter at QB, and not everyone has enjoyed the same luxury as Florida State when it comes to picking a winner.

While the preseason favorites -- Clemson and Miami -- share the common thread of stable quarterbacking situations, there's no shortage of question marks across the ACC. Look no further than NC State and Syracuse. Both schools are looking to replace immensely successful quarterbacks, and neither has officially tabbed a starter for the season opener yet.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Mitchell
Nelson Chenault/US PresswireIs Arkansas transfer Brandon Mitchell the answer for NC State at QB? We won't know until game day.
This spring, NC State coach Dave Doeren wasn't entirely satisfied with his options, so when fifth-year senior Brandon Mitchell transferred from Arkansas, the Wolfpack's quarterback carousel took get another turn. Mitchell is a versatile athlete who probably fits Doeren's offense better than Pete Thomas, but that doesn't mean it's an open-and-shut case. Doeren said he's not planning to announce a starter until game day.

At Syracuse, new coach Scott Shafer is planning to let the drama simmer a bit longer, too. Drew Allen and Terrel Hunt have been battling for the starter's job throughout camp as the Orange look to replace Ryan Nassib, and Shafer won't announce a decision until Saturday when Syracuse takes on Penn State.

Life is a bit simpler at Pittsburgh, where Tom Savage officially won the job last week. He'll get an up-close look at Winston when the Panthers host Florida State on Labor Day, making the job of preparing a bit more challenging on both sides.

“You know there’s some stuff you won’t be prepared for, but you try to do the best you can,” Pitt coach Paul Chryst said. “As a coach you try to prepare for the unknown — but how do you do that? I don’t know.”

At Duke and Georgia Tech, there isn't nearly so much mystery. Yes, Sean Renfree and Tevin Washington are gone, but their replacements have already offered extended sneak peeks.

The Blue Devils turn their offense over to Anthony Boone, who appeared in 12 games last season and made one start against Virginia when Renfree was sidelined. Replacing Renfree's big numbers from 2012 won't be an easy task, but the athletic Boone figures to slide into the new role with ease. The same is true for Vad Lee at Georgia Tech. Washington was a key contributor in 2012, rushing for an ACC-best 20 touchdowns, but Lee may be an even better fit in Paul Johnson's triple-option offense. The sophomore appeared in 12 games last season, racking up over 100 yards on the ground against both Presbyterian and North Carolina.

Virginia is excited about its quarterbacking situation, too, which comes as something of a surprise after months of drama. Last season saw a two-man QB battle play out throughout the year, with both Michael Rocco and Phillip Sims getting turns as the starter, and when the season ended, both left the program. But this summer, sophomore David Watford emerged as the clear favorite, and coach Mike London made it official just two weeks into fall camp.

And if Virginia is happy to have a stable starter for the first time in a long time, Maryland is downright elated just to have a cache of healthy bodies. The Terps' 2012 campaign was sunk by a rash of injuries to its quarterbacks, with four different players lost for the year. Eventually, coach Randy Edsall was forced to turn to linebacker Shawn Petty as his only remaining option.

Things are looking much better for Maryland now, where C.J. Brown is finally healthy. Brown tore his ACL during fall camp last year, but the injury is completely healed and the athletic senior is eager to get back to work.

Of course, the Terps' trials and tribulations last season offer an easy reminder that even the most settled quarterback situations can unravel quickly. That's a big reason why Fisher was so pleased to see FSU's QB battle remain so close throughout fall camp.

“No matter what you say, you’ve got to have two guys ready to play,” Fisher said. “And I think both guys have shown they can go in and play.”

ACC preseason power rankings

August, 26, 2013
8/26/13
9:04
AM ET
Ranking the teams in the ACC heading into the first weekend of the regular season:

1. Clemson: There's no questioning the talent at Clemson, where Tajh Boyd is in the hunt for a Heisman and Sammy Watkins looks to regain his place among college football's elite playmakers. But the burden of massive expectations will be with the Tigers from the start, and they'll be tested early with a season opener against Georgia.

2. Florida State: A lot of talent has left Tallahassee since last year's ACC championship, but the cupboard isn't bare for Jimbo Fisher. There are bound to be some growing pains with a new quarterback and a new defensive scheme, but Florida State still might be the most talented team in the conference.

3. Miami: The black cloud of NCAA sanctions has passed, and Al Golden has a team poised to finally take a step back toward relevance on a national stage. Stephen Morris and Duke Johnson headline a potent offensive attack, and the Hurricanes return one of the most experienced teams in the conference.

4. North Carolina: The Tar Heels need to replace Giovani Bernard and find some answers on both sides of the line, but Bryn Renner & Co. are now well versed in Larry Fedora's system, making North Carolina a legitimate threat in the Coastal Division.

5. Virginia Tech: After last season's implosion, Virginia Tech figures to enjoy something of a rebound, but there are still some major questions looming. The offensive line could be a significant issue, meaning more pressure on QB Logan Thomas. And, with a showdown versus Alabama to start the season, the Hokies could find themselves in an early hole.

6. Georgia Tech: The defense improved down the stretch last season, and new coordinator Ted Roof seems to have found a system that fits the legitimate talent Georgia Tech has on that side of the ball. Vad Lee takes over at quarterback for what could be a prolific offense, giving the Yellow Jackets a legitimate shot at another ACC championship game appearance.

7. Wake Forest: The Deacons have a veteran roster and a manageable schedule, so improving on last year's 5-7 finish shouldn't be a reach. The key will be finding some success offensively after ranking 116th nationally in scoring offense and struggling mightily to run the football last season.

8. NC State: New coach Dave Doeren inherits a roster in transition, but there is some talent returning. NC State has a solid stable of receivers, even if the quarterback position remains a question mark. The Wolfpack should be thrilled with another winning season, but there's plenty of work to be done.

9. Maryland: At the very least, Maryland should have a more settled situation at quarterback this season after sifting through five starters at the position in 2012. Add a potentially strong defense and an impressive playmaker in Stefon Diggs, and the Terps have a shot at leaving the ACC on a high note.

10. Pittsburgh: The ACC didn't exactly roll out the welcome mat for the Panthers, who have the misfortune of opening their season against the defending conference champs. But if Paul Chryst's crew can hold its own against Florida State on Labor Day, the outlook for Pitt could improve markedly.

11. Syracuse: A new coach, a new quarterback and a new conference mean plenty of question marks for the Orange as they enter 2013, but Syracuse figures to have one of the better defenses in the league, led by linebacker Dyshawn Davis.

12. Duke: There's no question 2012 was a big step forward for the Duke program, which reached a bowl game for the first time in nearly two decades. But there's plenty of rebuilding to do, even if new QB Anthony Boone looks ready to take over the offense. Plus, for all of last year's success, Duke still lost six of its final seven games.

13. Virginia: Mike London appears to be finding his footing at Virginia, but the rebuilding process continues. The Cavaliers lost both of last year's quarterbacks, and major question marks remain on both sides of the ball.

14. Boston College: The Eagles won just one game against an FBS opponent last season, and, not surprisingly, a massive overhaul of the coaching staff followed. Steve Addazio has injected some life into the program, but Chase Rettig & Co. still have a long way to go.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

College Football Minute: Sept. 23
A Heisman contender says Jameis Winston needs to mature, Michigan tries to weather the storm and Tennessee dismisses a player after allegations of domestic violence. It's all ahead in today's College Football Minute.
VIDEO PLAYLIST video